Reflecting on the RRU Virtual Symposium

This week, I participated in the 2022 MALAT Virtual Symposium at Royal Roads University (RRU) as part of the Master in Educational Technology degree program. Before I get into it, let me first thank everyone who worked hard to create and support the RRU Virtual Symposium. There is a plethora of excellent content in the virtual symposium archive, and most of the presenters are credible and well-established experts in the educational technology field. Overall, I enjoyed digging into the RRU Virtual Symposium. This was the first time I watched content from the Virtual Symposium, even though I am nearing the end of the MALAT program. Now that I reflect on this experience, having completed most of the MALAT program before watching the Virtual Symposium caused both positive and negative effects on my viewing experience. 

Watching as a Near-Completion Student

On the one hand, much of the material presented was familiar to me since I had studied educational technology for the past two years, allowing me to walk away with more meaning-making than if I were new to the program. To an extent, I could anticipate what the presenters would say, which allowed me to contemplate the information at a deep level. I could connect many of the theories and perspectives I have learned throughout the program to the presentation content, which helped me understand concepts that underpin the presenter’s viewpoints. On the other hand, since I had read, heard, or experienced many of the presentation topics already – aside from student presentations – my level of engagement was perhaps less than what it would have been at the program’s start. 

Two years ago, I was so eager to dig into new content, and a new degree program that watching recordings and live presentations of talking heads, discussion panels, and PowerPoint slides would have been immensely satisfying. I was a keener back then, like most new graduate students; however, after learning about the EdTech field for the past two years, I found many presentations repetitive. After watching a few of the recordings, to be honest, I felt myself wanting to rush through them and could sense my cognitive engagement slipping. This led me to reflect on the importance of adding variety in the design of multimedia learning presentations to accommodate inclusivity in online education. 

Inclusivity & Instructional Design

I love that inclusivity was a central topic of the virtual symposium since it is so apparent in the EdTech literature and current K-12 and higher education trends. It’s pretty simple: Education must be made to be more openly accessible so that more people worldwide can become educated (Cormier, 2017), and instructional design must continue to evolve along with diverse learners and technology. Veletsianos (2021) said different designs work for different people at different times and situations, depending on various factors. Now it helps that Veletsianos was one of my favourite instructors in the MALAT program because he is so incredibly knowledgeable. Still, his point reigns particularly true to me personally as a MALAT student. My taste in educational content – specifically Zoom-style discussion panels – has drastically changed throughout my time in the MALAT program; what captivated my attention at the start of the program no longer does as a near-completion student. 

I felt most engaged watching the presentation entitled “PowerPoint improv” (2021). This presentation was captivating to me because it revealed the personality of the presenters and injected natural humour throughout. The content was consistent with current EdTech trends, valuable, and compatible with the other presentations, but it was delivered in a unique way that set it apart from the norm. PowerPoint Improv is a perfect example of how you can create content that caters to specific learning styles without the need for any fancy EdTech or production tools. The presentation was still talking head style with narration, but it was captivating, at least to me. 

So what am I trying to say with all of this? I learned that although inclusivity in online learning is a highly trending topic, more emphasis needs to be placed on sharing actionable design strategies that accommodate student engagement. Inclusivity in ID goes far beyond respecting diversity, enabling participation, and removing barriers; it also has to consider actionable measures to accommodate student engagement by addressing learners’ evolving needs and preferences.  

Final Thoughts

I argue the notion that ID should be an exclusive and paid position for all higher education institutions rather than being part of a term instructor’s to-do list and that more can be done to support ID technical competency training in the RRU Virtual Symposium. As Meyers et al. (2022) argue, utilizing EdTech in ID offers designers an effective means to foster diversity; however, I argue this is easier said than done. For instance, creating an instructional video that can rival the technical competencies of today’s social media, like Youtube tutorial videos, is time-consuming, mentally challenging, and requires significant technical expertise. I would have like to see more presentations that deliver actionable strategies to address learner engagement and various techniques to improve multimedia learning design, rather than just talking about the need to address inclusivity in general terms while avoiding technological disruption. Perhaps future instances of the RRU virtual symposium could incorporate a blend between panel discussion and examples of innovative uses of EdTech.

References

Childs, E. & Veletsianos, G. (2021, April 15). PowerPoint improv [Video]. Blackboard Collaborate. https://ca.bbcollab.com/collab/ui/session/playback/load/c5e490c22efb40a5aeacf457516237a1

Cromier, D. (2017, April 18). Intentional messiness of online communities. [Video]. Royal Roads University. https://malat-coursesite.royalroads.ca/lrnt521/recordings/dave-cormier-virtual-symposium-presentation/

Meyers, M., Veletsianos, G., & DeVries, E. (2022). Instructional Design In & After COVID-19 [YouTube Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FJKfV4QphYc

2 thoughts on “Reflecting on the RRU Virtual Symposium

  1. I agree that there should be more examples in the Virtual Symposium. How does this affect us today and in the future? I also enjoyed the PowerPoint Improv; I found it engaging and fun, while still being informative, and as you said, they didn’t need anything fancy on the multimedia side besides some nice pictures to get the conversation going. I think many universities do have Instructional Designer positions, however I am unsure of what their scope is.

    1. Hi Heather,

      Thank you for your comment.

      I believe there is still a gap between the effective use of EdTech and teaching practices in online education. At the college level, many institutions in Canada do not have the resources or desire to support full-time instructional designers, so much of the course design workload is on the term instructors. In this case, instructors are typically responsible for customizing a course shell in applications like Moodle or Brightspace, including creating rubrics, assessments, assignments, a course syllabus, etc. Tossed in the mix is the need to develop asynchronous lessons, typically in the form of instructional videos or something like H5P to ensure some interactivity is built into the lessons, but this is where things can go a bit haywire. Frequently, instructors do not have enough time or lack the technical knowledge to develop professional multimedia lessons, so the product is often a talking head with bad room sound, which is no different than the traditional lecture in a lecture hall. The problem is that much of the literature on teaching and learning tells us to move away from the behaviourist teaching approach because it results in passive learning and poor learning outcomes compared to lessons that incorporate generative processing activities throughout the lesson.

      For this reason, among others, we need to find a way to either supply these education professionals with the resources (e.g., time) to produce adequate learning materials that combine current tech with best practices in pedagogy, and/or somehow create more permanent positions for instructional designers at the college level. In any case, providing designers with greater access to EdTech training is essential for online education to improve, in a general sense, irrespective of the fact that technology trends tend to change annually. The greater the exposure to technical skills training, the greater a designer’s or instructor’s ability to develop engaging multimedia learning presentations that motivate an ever-evolving and mobile learner population.

      Regarding the scope of IDs at the university level, I’m not sure I can give you a definitive answer as most universities are unique from one another; however, I can say that ID at this level often pertains to learning outcomes and perhaps less to technical competency because many institutions also employ educational technologists to take care of the technical aspect of design. I guess it really comes done to resources at the institutional level. If the money allows for it, IDs are employed, and if not, then the learners and term instructors take the brunt of it.

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